<
>

Hameed and Duckett in line for England calls

Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett look to be the likely beneficiaries of the decision by Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan to miss the tour of Bangladesh, as England's selectors prepare to name their Test and ODI squads.

A recall for off-spinner Gareth Batty, who will be 39 by the time the Test series starts, is also anticipated, as well as his Surrey team-mate, Zafar Ansari.

Duckett, who has enjoyed an outstanding season with Northants, looks set to come into the limited-overs squad, while Hameed has emerged as the likely replacement for Hales as Alastair Cook's opening partner in the Test squad.

Other uncapped players with a chance of a call-up include the left-arm spinner Jack Leach, as well as Durham's opening batsman Keaton Jennings and the Surrey wicketkeeper, Ben Foakes.

England look set to name an unusually large 17-man squad for the two-Test series, plus a 15-man squad for the three-match ODI series in Bangladesh. And, while the tour moves straight into a Test series in India without warm-up games, the ECB have specified that this squad will cover the Bangladesh segment only.

The most contentious decisions ahead of the announcement of the Test squad (at 10am on Friday) focus on the identity of Cook's new opening partner, the identity of the reserve wicketkeeper and the identity of the side's third (and perhaps fourth) spin bowler.

While Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid are sure to be named as the two main spinners in the squad, the battle for the remaining places is intriguing. Batty, despite his age, is expected to return as an experienced pro, with Ansari a strong possibility despite an injury-ravaged year. Jack Leach may have to be content with a Lions tour despite 58 Championship wickets at a cost of 22.60 this season.

Liam Dawson, who has claimed only 15 Championship wickets at an average of 46.80 this season but is seen as a good controlling bowler, is expected to miss out, as is Ollie Rayner who has claimed 50 Championship wickets this season.

The selectors have a similarly tricky decision to make over the opening position. While Sam Robson has looked in good touch this season - Warwickshire believe he played Jeetan Patel, Division One's leading wicket-taker, better than anyone - it seems Hameed is the one who has made the biggest impression on the selectors.

Aged just 19 and with fewer than 20 first-class games behind him, his selection would, in some ways, constitute a gamble. But he has impressed with his tight technique and unflustered temperament - his director of cricket at Lancashire, Ashley Giles, compares his hatred of losing his wicket as similar to that of Jonathan Trott's - and England's head coach, Trevor Bayliss, is understood to have been impressed by the footage he has seen of him in action.

Jennings' success this season is hard to ignore, though. Nobody in the top division of the County Championship has scored more runs - he has made 1,522 at 69.18 - or as many centuries (seven). Having just qualified for England (he is the son of Ray Jennings, the former South Africa wicketkeeper), he has made a compelling case for selection.

Mark Wood looks sure to return, while James Vince looks set to miss out. Gary Ballance is another who faces an anxious wait, though he may well have done just enough.

The choice of reserve wicketkeeper comes down to a choice between Foakes and Jos Buttler. Foakes has only had one full season as first-choice keeper, but is clearly a special talent, while Buttler has, at this stage, played only one red-ball game since he was dropped from the Test team last October. His record against spin isn't wonderful, either, though his talent is unquestioned and his appointment as stand-in ODI captain demonstrates the management's faith in his character.

There was a time when the selectors suggested that nobody would be selected for England unless they had previously come through the Lions system. There is some sense in that stance, too, as it gives the management an idea of how their players will react in a new environment and, often, at a slightly higher level.

But that isn't an option this time. The ECB did not arrange any red-ball cricket for the Lions over the winter of 2015-16 or over the summer of 2016, so there has been no chance to see how Jennings or Hameed might cope. To be fair, both have developed from relative obscurity and would have been unlikely candidates for a Lions tour this time last year.

This winter, the Lions are hoping to play two four-day games (and five limited-overs games) in Sri Lanka and, subject to agreements, a three-day game against Afghanistan in Dubai before Christmas. The squad for those tours will be named on Monday.

While Duckett is a pretty clear choice for the ODI squad - it is by no means impossible that a successful debut would render Eoin Morgan's return problematic - there may well be opportunities for several other fringe players (the likes of Sam Billings and Dawid Malan, among them) if, as expected, England rest the likes of Joe Root and Moeen from the limited-overs section of the tour.